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Friday 22 August 2014

Shatter plans referendum to overhaul courts

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 18/07/2012 | 05:00

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JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter plans to hold a referendum to overhaul the courts -- committing the Government to yet another poll during the lifetime of the Coalition.

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Yesterday Mr Shatter unveiled plans for a referendum to allow the creation of a Civil Court of Appeal and specialist courts such as a dedicated family law court.

He also revealed that the Government is considering giving extra powers to the Supreme Court when the President refers legislation to the court to test whether it is constitutional.

Under the plans, the Supreme Court would be able to reject the referral as groundless if there was no factual or evidential basis for the review.

The Government has already held three referendums since it took power, including polls on judges' pay, Oireachtas inquiries and the fiscal treaty.

It has also promised to hold a referendum on children's rights, although no date has been set, and it is contemplating a number of other polls including on the Presidential term of office and voting rights.

Mr Shatter confirmed the new referendum at yesterday's launch of the report of the Courts Service, which shows a significant increase in the number of rape, robbery and debt cases coming before the courts.

But the campaign to make our roads safer seems to be working, with a marked decrease in the number of people being prosecuted for dangerous driving and drink driving.

Last year the Central Criminal Court dealt with 80 rape cases, a 63pc increase on 2009 figures .

The report showed that there were 39 murder cases tried at the Central Criminal Court, which hears the most serious criminal cases.

This figure represents an 8pc jump on 2010, but an overall 26pc decrease since 2009.

Fifty people received sentences of 10 years or more for theft, fraud and robbery, with 481 receiving sentences of between five and 10 years for similar offences.

Divorce and judicial separation figures have remained stagnant, with fewer couples able to afford a costly parting.

Violence

But the courts have witnessed a significant increase in the number of emergency barring orders and protection orders sought by families experiencing domestic violence.

The number of children taken into care by the HSE doubled within a year, with 2,287 such orders in 2011.

There was also a 33pc rise in supervision orders, which involve the child being visited and monitored in their own home by the HSE.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, Mrs Justice Susan Denham -- who is chair of the Courts Service Board -- warned that court sittings could be affected by future cuts to the agency's budget and that a contingency plan is being drawn up aimed at achieving the savings that could be required over the next two years.

Irish Independent

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